28 May 2008

Red State/Blue State Issues Coverage Similar But Shows Some Key Differences

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

With all the talk in the 2004 election about the differing concerns and electorates of Red States vs. Blue States, or those considered to be solidly democratic or republican states, Dow Jones Insight took a look at how the coverage by mainstream media in those states differed on some of the more controversial domestic “wedge” issues. (“Wedge” issues being social or political issues, often of a divisive or otherwise controversial nature, that split apart, or create a "wedge," in the support base of a political group.) While the results showed that the coverage had more in common than was different – on the issue of faith in particular – there were a few key areas where coverage levels between the two groups varied, in expected ways.

Blue States had more coverage about the environment (20% of total coverage for all candidates on the five wedge issues vs 18% in the Red States press) and on same-sex marriage (3% of total coverage on the issues vs 2% in the Red States press). Red States, meanwhile, had higher coverage on immigration (13% of all wedge issue coverage in Red vs 11% in Blue) and abortion (6% vs 5%). Faith was virtually equal, with Red States at 61% and Blue States at 60% on high volumes relative to the other issues.

The most noticeable differences overall involved McCain, who had higher coverage on immigration in the Red States press (20% of his total coverage on the five issues in Red States) than in Blue States (18% of his issues-related coverage), and higher coverage on same-sex marriage in Blue States (4% of all McCain coverage on the five issues) than in Red (3%), a small percentage overall but representing a disparity of 33%.

* Blue States are defined as those that were carried by the Democrats in all four of the most recent presidential elections: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Red States are defined as those that were carried by the GOP in all four of the most recent presidential elections: Alaska, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

Methodology: Figures in Chart 3 reflect mentions of the three candidates in close proximity (about 50 words) to terms related to the five tracked issues occurring in newspapers, Web sites, and television and radio broadcasts originating in the states listed for each group. Note that not all 50 U.S. states are included in the two groups.

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